Does a "bad" baby name make you a bad parent?

Katherine - posted on 12/07/2010 ( 24 moms have responded )

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If telling someone their baby is not cute is one of the world's most unforgivable (and punch-worthy) crimes, then telling someone they gave their kid a bad name may be a close second.

And yet there are times when, whether we want to admit it or not, both harsh realities are true. While one certainly can't be helped (goodness knows my genes are to blame for the visual horror that was my junior high years) one can. And yet year after year there are those who seem to be tempting the world to question their fitness as parents right out of the gate by naming their child something most of us would be too embarrassed to name a pet -- for fear of what the other dogs at the dog park might think.

I've been thinking about this a lot since BabyCenter released its annual list of the most popular baby names for the year. In addition to what's being called "The Sarah Palin Effect" in which the names of Palin's daughters Bristol, Willow and Piper, have seen a significant increase in popularity, there has also been an increase in names with a financial connotation: Bentley, Fortune and Cashton for instance. As in "I have a Fortune and I spent it on a Bentley."

If a picture is worth a thousand words, one could say that the name someone gives their kids is worth a million -- telling you a lot about that person's values and priorities. For instance, it was noted that in addition to Bentley reflecting the financial aspirations of a lot of younger Americans, it is also the name of a child featured on MTV's Teen Mom. (Because who wouldn't want to pick up parenting tips from a show called Teen Mom?)

When it comes to the Olympics of wacky kid names celebrities have more medals than most. There's actor Jason Lee who famously named his son Pilot Inspektor and actress Shannyn Sossamon who named her son Audio Science. (Click here for a list of some of the wackiest celebrity baby names.)

Picking on parents for giving their kids questionable names may sound like a laughing matter but the name someone has to go through life with is really serious business. Consider a 2003 study by MIT that found that job applicants with so-called black sounding names, like Tamika, were statistically less likely than applicants with so-called white sounding names, like Emily, to receive job interviews despite identical, and in some cases superior, resumes.

Despite the fact that plenty of the so-called "black" names used in the MIT study actually have significant historical and cultural relevance (among them Aisha, a name that appears prominently in the Quran), the study does raise the question of whether or not a parent has the responsibility to put the future opportunities of his/her child ahead of his/her own political or cultural identity.

There have been a number of high profile custody cases in which the name of a child has become an issue. In 2008 court officers in New Zealand briefly took guardianship of a nine-year-old girl who sought legal recourse after being teased incessantly for her birth name. The name in question: Talula does the Hula from Hawaii. In his ruling the judge in the case chided her parents, as well as others like them who intentionally saddle their children with wacky names. Among some of the other names he cited: "Fish and Chips" and "Violence."

A New Jersey couple also found themselves fighting to maintain their custody rights after family members and neighbors raised red flags about their fitness and judgment as guardians, which included among other things, naming one child Adolf Hitler. The case made the news after a local grocery store refused to decorate the child's birthday cake with his given name.

Obviously I don't think that anyone should have to ask the government's permission before naming a child. But just as it would be nice if every person that procreates were to actually become a loving, attentive parent it would be nice if every parent named their child in a manner that leaves every possible door of opportunity open for that child, not closes any outright. And a name like Adolf Hitler may be a tough sell on a presidential campaign sign thirty years from now.

Then again, who ever would have thought we'd have a president named Barack Obama? (Although it's worth noting that his name comes from his father, not from his parents' creative imagination or attempts to make a statement.)

But I still think a President named "Fortune" or God help us Snookie or Kardashian, is a long shot.
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24 Comments

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Bonnie - posted on 12/07/2010

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I think some parents need to have their head examined for the names they give their children. They definitely don't take into consideration what their children will go through in school. My husband went to school with someone named Richard Mann. Supposedly a short form for Richard other than Rich is Dick. I have no idea where Dick comes from Richard, but they use to call him Dick Mann. He despised it. Crazy parents. My husbands first name is not an every day kind of name. It is an italian name and he is named after his Grandfather. People have said to my husband, "what kind of name is that?" How do pronounce that?" When really if you just look at it, it is not difficult to pronounce. Pisses him right off.

Bonnie - posted on 12/07/2010

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Katherine, that's weird! I don't see why that nurse said that to you, "She'll have to grow into that one." I just don't get it. Alyce is pronounced the same way as Alice. Quite frankly, I like Alyce better.

Katherine - posted on 12/07/2010

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I named my daughter Alyce(Alice) and the nurse said "Well she'll have to grow into that one."

Coulda smacked her!!! She's named after her great grandma's. Alyce Jane.

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Once a stranger asked me what my daughters name was. I said Gabrrielle, her reply? "Well at least her name will suit her when shes 60." with a disgusted look on her face..could have smacked her.

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i know a guy....named guy....i think its funny, shows his parents had a sense of humor. i think if they named their kid after an infamous serial kiler, or horrible historic figure, that would say the parents are dicks....gabbys dad....his name is brad wade graham....wade graham is funny....you weigh a gram...hahaha

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Sharon, this is so true. I've looked over applications with my former boss and he's come across a few names he couldn't pronounce, and names that I had to take a second to even read. They ended up at the bottom of the list.

Amie - posted on 12/07/2010

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Oh and the family who named their kids Adolf Hitler, etc. those parents are just messed up. =/

Amie - posted on 12/07/2010

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These types of threads always remind me of when we had our youngest.

The nurse walked in and asked me what we named her. She had a slightly strange look on her face. When I told her Allison, she let out a sigh and her face lit up. She goes "Oh thank god a normal name". LMAO!!

On the other hand we have Ninqueer (not sure how it's spelled, that's how it sounds) who moved here from Africa. To her and her family, our names are weird. It's all in where you live.

Rosie - posted on 12/07/2010

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i don't think they are bad parents, just weirdos, lol! pilot inspektor screams looney to me.

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I read a report that said that prospective employers who can;t pronounce the name on a resume or application is looked over and forgotten.

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I put a lot of thought into my daughter's name. But that means nothing if people can't pronounce it correctly. I would have no trouble pronouncing a name like Juliana Raine, but then, I live in the southern United States, and it's very likely her own grandparents will mispronounce it. Ugh.

Anyway, I think parents these days should put more thought into their children's names. They're going to be stuck with them for the rest of their lives unless they can get the money to change them officially. Do you really want to see your son or daughter so ashamed of the names you gave them that they'd hire a lawyer to fix it?

I wouldn't.

Jenny - posted on 12/07/2010

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It can make it very difficult to be taken seriously as adult with a crazy name on a resume. For that reason alone I don't like them. Otherwise anything goes. My partner has a cousin named Cosmo, he's awesome.

Charlie - posted on 12/07/2010

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I think Candida was the worst name I heard , it says : "my parents are dumbass assholes "

Katherine - posted on 12/07/2010

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Another one: Talula does the Hula from Hawaii

That was her name?!!! Horrid parents IMO.

La - posted on 12/07/2010

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I don't think it makes you a bad parent, but it can definitely reflect your personal character or beliefs. For example, most people would not name their child Adolf Hitler knowing that it would send a message of racial intolerance unless they WERE trying to send that message. So while they may be great parents to little Adolf, they are still assholes as people.

Katherine - posted on 12/07/2010

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What about Pilot Inspektor? Can you honestly say the parents thought: OH I LOVE that name let's name our child that. I mean what WERE they thinking and what kind of parent WOULD do that to a child?

April - posted on 12/07/2010

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i don't think it makes you a bad parent, but it does send the message that you don't care what other people think or even what your child will think when he/she is older. There are a few "oddball" names that I think are cute but then I consider how my future child would feel and that's enough to stop me from choosing a crazy name

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